16 November 2009
In my opinion, pubs are not to be missed when visiting England. Even if you do not drink they should be on your list of things to see. They offer a hot meal without a dear price and in a setting out of England’s past. Well, at least the older pubs look that way. For the most part they are where friends go to chat, sing along with a piano player or take part in quiz night. They are a community-gathering place where lives cross paths, friendships form and you don’t need a password to log in to chat to somebody.
Pubs in England are different than bars in America. Old men bring their dogs in for a rest (for the men, not the dogs), house cats are common and women are safe to enjoy a drink. You know you’re in a local when mothers come in with their children. Some of my favorite pubs had baby carriages by the fireplace. These belonged to the family living upstairs.
People tend to keep to themselves when in a coffee shop but are more talkative in a pub. I have met many nice people in pubs over the years. Once they see that you are American they eager to engage in a chat. Mind your manners and you will have a drinking buddy. Years ago I became friends with a gent who was a member of the Cold Stream Guards band. We met in the Albert pub on Victoria Street. On one memorable visit I was invited to a special tour of the Tower of London with his unit. We had a social hour and private tour. When the tourist left after the ceremony of the keys, we went back to the pub for drinks.
When I took an interest in pub many years ago I tried to catalogue them so that I could pass the best ones on to my friends. I gave up. So many pubs have closed due to buy-outs and mergers that it is hard ot keep track.
There are several types of pubs in England. The two divisions of pubs are the tied house and the free house. A free house is a pub that is owned by a person or family. It is “free” to buy beer from whomever it pleases. A tied house is rather complicated to explain. It is “tied” to a brewery either outright or through a financial loan. It may be free to put on a guest beer but it usually gets a list of approved beer.
Tied houses can be either a tenant house or a managed house. A managed house is one that is owned directly by a brewery and is run by a manager. He gets paid a wage and has limited say in what happens to the pub. A tenant house is owned by person but is controlled to a great deal by the brewery. If a tenant has no financial obligations to a brewery then he has a true free house. This is rare these days.
Many pubs are not owned by breweries, as was the norm years ago, but are part of a pub company. Pubco’s are private companies that basically own pubs as a business venture. They can be lucrative, which is why there are so many companies. They are not always well thought of in some circles but they can bring different beers into an area controlled by a few breweries.
Pubs on the Web
(To be populated as I go on)
Argyle Arms Argyle Street/Oxford Street W1
For all Nicholsons Pubs
Bree Louise Euston N1
Charles Dickens 160 Union Street, South London SE1
Fox & Anchor Smithfield EC1
Fullers Brewery and a map to find their pubs
Gunmakers 13 Eyre St Hill EC1R just north of Clerkenwell Road
I follow Jeffery Bell’s blog
Market Porter Southwark SE1
Samuel Smiths pubs by James Gretton
Seven Dials Club in Covent Garden
Wenlock Arms North London N1
Wetherspoon pubs in London
White Hart Southwark SE1 (Closed weekends)
Young’s pubs in London
More Pubs Links
Fancy a pint
Function Rooms http://www.pub-rooms.co.uk/pubs-bars-london.php
This site helps you fine pubs that have function rooms for hire.
Knowledge of London pubs
Photos of London pubs
Society of Independent Brewers: http://siba.co.uk/2010/02/bfbi-london-section-agm-spring-lecture/
Society for the Preservation of Beers from the Wood: spbw
Churchill Arms, 119 Kensington Church Street W8 7LN, Kensington
Photo by Ed, April 2008